18 June 2024
Bad Ronald (1974)
74 min.
Directed by Buzz Kulik.
With Scott Jacoby, Kim Hunter, Dabney Coleman, Pippa Scott, Cindy Eilbacher, Lisa Eilbacher, Cindy Fisher.
Bad Ronald is an extremely odd, effective TV thriller that defies categorization. But if you must, think of it as The Diary of Anne Frank meets PSYCHO.

Adolescent misfit Ronald Wilby (Jacoby) is a bit of a tortured soul, and one day when he's provoked, he flies into a fit of rage and accidentally kills a young girl.

Aided by his protective and well-meaning mother (Hunter), the two devise a plan to protect the boy from arrest and prosecution by sealing off a room in the Wilby family house.

Ronald will live - hidden - in this secret room until the threat of criminal danger passes. But then his mother dies unexpectedly, and Ronald is left to fend for himself. Soon, his survival begins to take on uneasy, epic - and bizarre - proportions.

Bad Ronald is a complete success, thanks to its unique brand of claustrophobic mustiness, and an offbeat premise courtesy of novelist Jack Vance.

Scott Jacoby - also so good in 1976's The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane - is perfectly intense here as the trapped, doomed (and increasingly crazy) Ronald. The climax elicits a hint of touching poignancy, and reinforces the notion of how well the characters have been drawn.

Our only complaint is the always wonderful Kim Hunter is underused here, but then again, that's merely a result of the plotting.

Superb all around.

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